A Toll-Free Number is a special telephone number which is free for the calling party, and instead the telephone carrier charges the called party for the cost of the call. A toll-free number is identified by a service access code, from a dialing prefix range similar to a geographic area code. The specific service access numbers can vary by country.
The capabilities of toll-free services have evolved as telephone networks have moved from electro-mechanical call switching to fully computerized stored program controlled networks.
For example, in today’s computerized networks, use of a toll-free number often allows for capture of telephone numbers of incoming calls. In the United States, for example, toll free numbers usually capture the telephone number of the caller through automatic number identification, which is independent of caller ID data and captures caller information even if caller ID is blocked.
History Of Toll Free Number
in 1967 AT&T launched a new product called “interstate INWARD WATS.” Actually, “launch” is a strong word, because AT&T never envisioned the radical changes this product would bring to the world of business. Their new “WATS” service had been developed as a solution to meet an anticipated shortage of telephone company operators. These operators were becoming overwhelmed by the number of collect calls that were being accepted by businesses. AT&T believed that this new service, also known as “Automated Collect Calling”, was a perfect solution, but otherwise had limited appeal. Nobody at AT&T would have dreamed that by 1992, only 25 short years after initial introduction, 40% of the calls on AT&T’s long distance network would be toll free calls.
From a Novelty, to Smart Business In the early years, toll free calling was a novelty and experienced modest growth. The catalyst for explosive growth in toll free calling came with the creation of centralized databases within AT&T’s network in the 1980s. These databases allowed businesses to have a single nationwide toll-free number instead of requiring different numbers for each state. The early days of modest growth were long forgotten and almost overnight it became smart business to advertise a toll-free number. This in turn grew into an expectation that companies wanting business would provide a toll-free number. By the late 1980’s, what had been simply a novelty a decade before, was now a requirement for any serious business.
Toll Free Calling in the Information Age Today, the combination of a Web site and a toll-free number provides businesses a truly global, electronic storefront. As businesses harness the power of the Web with the ease of use and ubiquity of the telephone, toll-free will play a major role. From its humble beginning as interstate “INWARD WATS”, toll-free calling has become an indispensable part of American life – for consumers as well as businesses.
A Timeline Of Toll Free History
- 1967: AT&T launches “Inbound WATS.”
- 1984: Toll Free Services “Unbundled” by MFJ*
- 1994: Toll Free Number Portability Mandated
- 1996: “888” Service Introduced
- 1997: International Toll Free Introduced
- 1998: “877” Service Introduced
- 2000: “866” Service Introduced
Toll Free Number (1800-137-2014)
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